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The Palestine / Israel nightmare rages on, even on facebook


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watch the video again, he says :

"it's not an islamic problem, it's an African problem"

"nowhere else in the Muslim majority states is FGM an issue"

do you think those statements are correct?

I believe in this case he was not making a blanket statement that it did not occur at all in ANY muslim country, but that it does not occur in ALL muslim countries, and I understood him here as referenceing turkey/indonesia as muslim majority states where FGM is not an issue.

Maybe you should try and connect with him and see if he really was "pretending" that it didn't exist in some ME countries.

His points still holds true: FGM is not an "islamic" problem - since many tribes, muslim, christian and "miscellaneous" do the practise, primarily in Africa (which is the real core of the problem and where the huge majority of all FGMs occur).

Seems like a bit of a sideshow point you're trying to score here - I am of the mind that someone like aslan deserves the benefit of the doubt when wondering if he believes something so clearly incorrect based on a quick statement in a 5 min back and forth with some cable news airheads...

Disagree. Detrimental tribal & local customs are easier to reform than religious customs (except in case where tribal & local customs have been assimilated by religion, but in those cases i'd argue they've become religious and no longer solely tribal/local)

I think there's merit to discuss all of these things together (along with education, economics & politics), but once you take religion off the table and declare it off limits you've stunted any reasonable discussion.

I would think Aslan would say focusing far too heavily on Islam, actually, is what stunts "reasonable discussion" on the vectors to horrific outcomes for women in ME countries.

Your first point is very confusing - to me it would seem tribal custom is much more difficult to erode given its success at being transmuted from religion to religion over the ages as a region undergoes change over the centuries. The religions change but the tribal customs live on... And when it comes to making a case for "islamic exceptionalism", these are rarely controlled for (along with factors like the type of government in the nation, media culture, socio economic conditions, patriarchy) and it isn't for a few reasons:
- when controlling for these factors the case for Islamic exceptionalism melts away
- The people attacking Islam in this way are not prudent social scientists trying to explain a phenomenon with careful research - frequently they are just scoring tribal points to showcase their own rightness and/or adding casus belli to a favoured military action against a predominantly muslim country.
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DJ Vuvu Zela

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I've heard Aslan debate about religion. It's the usual meek run around arguments on root causes etc...etc... without ever actually pointing out that in many cases religion is an intractable problem in the equation. How can anyone challenge rationale based on the purported supernatural, or faith?

I don't see how Aslan gets to call Bill Maher "unsophisticated" on his argument against religion while he gets a pass on a very "unsophisticated" argument of FGM. I'm not sure if you read the link i posted earlier, but it's certainly worth a visit :

» Religion or Culture? Stop FGM Middle East

it acknowledges that it's a culture problem, but it ALSO acknowledges it as a religious problem. People are being taught that Islam preaches FGM, so yes it IS an (at least partially) Islamic problem, and is very much an issue in MANY muslim countries (even those not in Africa, and yes, even in Indonesia)
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Just want to point out...

"The structures in the neighborhood, which abuts the Old City, were purchased over the last several years by an American-based company, Kendall Finances, one of several groups seeking to expand the Jewish presence in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem."

Dozens of Jews move into Arab East Jerusalem locale | The Times of Israel

Sorry but the argument is flawed here. What is wrong with your statement? Corporations buy up land in cities all over the world. You make it sound like we are in the 1950's and people are fearful that blacks are moving into the neighborhood (a ridiculous theory). The arabs in Israel live there peacefully and participate in society. The neighborhoods are built like checkerboards similar to Toronto. Little Italy, Greektown, Chinatown, they are all part of the same city. That said real estate prices, area demographics, population growth all contribute to Jews buying up areas within those Arab regions. My in-laws live in a Russian area of Richmond hill- but there are blacks, chinese, etc people of all faiths that live throughout the area. You post an article saying that dozens move in - There are thousands in that area.

Are you saying that no Jew should live in an Arab area? These are legitimate purchases of land I don't see the problem here.

DJ Vuvu Zela

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a more rational view on Affleck's hysterical Real Time outburst :

Ben Affleck to Sam Harris: Gross Racist! | Psychology Today

Last night Ben Affleck and Sam Harris appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. You can watch the clip and read part of the relevant transcript here. Affleck became visibly agitated when Harris proposed that there is a double standard when it comes to the manner in which so-called liberals respond to Islam versus other religions. You can view my most recent THE SAAD TRUTH video clip as well as read an earlier one of my Psychology Today articles wherein I tackle this exact issue. Affleck’s position is that since the majority of Muslims do not go around beheading people, to draw links between this ideology and illiberal values is racist, gross, bigoted, and Islamophobic. This oft-repeated position is usually followed by some variant of this personal observation: “My friend Hakeem is a practicing Muslim and he is the loveliest person in the world.” Ah, it’s settled then. There is nothing to worry about. Move along everyone. Only racist Nazis would be concerned with Islamic tenets that might otherwise be incongruent with Western liberal values.

Let me first address the “racist” charge. In criticizing an ideology, one cannot be racist, hateful, or bigoted. These descriptors apply to positions held against people and not ideologies. It is perfectly acceptable in a free and liberal society to criticize, debate, mock, and reject any ideology. The contents of an ideology are not sacrosanct simply because they are couched in the cloak of a religion. If we were to refrain from criticizing religion, this would constitute adherence to blasphemy laws (see my earlier Psychology Today article on this matter). I was recently angered by a story regarding the refusal of Orthodox Jewish men to sit next to women on an El Al flight. Their position was rooted in otherwise deeply misogynistic religious beliefs. Given my disdain toward the behaviors and attitudes of these Orthodox Jews, does this make me a hateful, bigoted, Nazi-card carrying anti-Semite? What about individuals who might otherwise object to the Catholic Church’s position regarding abortion? Does this make them KKK Grand Wizards or are they allowed to criticize religious views that they consider sexist? Could they state that the Catholic Church is profoundly sexist even though they know innumerable Catholics who are not sexist and who have themselves had an abortion? Notwithstanding personal anecdotes to the contrary, an ideology is judged by its specific contents and by the real-world consequences that are engendered by it, when practiced in a particular way by hundreds of millions of people around the world. That Hakeem is the loveliest human being on earth says nothing about Islam.

Let us move to the “but 1.5 billion people are not violent” claim. Let me draw an analogy. Most men have never committed a rape nor will they ever commit such a reprehensible and evil act. Yet most rapists are men. Rape is a very serious issue that requires that we understand its root causes even though it is a very small minority of men who should be of concern to us. That we can all point to men who do not rape does not suggest that we should not worry about this phenomenon. Pointing to the empirical fact that rape is a largely male crime is not hateful, sexist, bigoted, or man-phobic. It is a manifestation of the fact that clear-thinking people can extract statistical regularities from the world and arrive to otherwise valid conclusions. Returning to the issue at hand, several global and reputable surveys (e.g., Pew Research Center) have offered a glimpse to the positions held by Muslims when it comes to a wide range of foundational liberal values (freedom of speech, rights of religious minorities, gay rights, women’s rights, apostasy, freedom of conscience). The picture is not pretty and it suggests that a sizeable portion (totaling in the hundreds of millions) hold views that are perfectly antithetical to the fundamental tenets along which Western values are based. So what should we do with this information? Should we refrain from having an open discussion on the matter since the majority of Muslims are indeed kind and peaceful? Should we ignore the daily carnages that are carried around the world in the name of the faith even though most people of that faith are not actively engaging in violence? How should we go about tackling this issue if we are increasingly being told that the mere hint of a criticism of that faith is unacceptable as it is “racist and gross” (to use Ben Affleck’s words)?

I should add that during Affleck’s incoherent rant he dismissed the current terror group du jour (ISIS) as a small and insignificant group that is otherwise irrelevant to the discussion given that they constitute a “minority” of extremists. Think about how diabolically smug and callous this statement is. There are thousands of people who are being beheaded, crucified, and raped by this group (rightly or wrongly in the name of their religion) yet in his infinite and blind desire to appear high-brow in his tolerance, he sees no reason to examine whether their positions might be religiously-inspired (they certainly seem to think so as do countless other similar groups around the world). The only thing that matters to Affleck is to signal to the world his bona fide progressive membership card of infinite tolerance built on the back of empty, ignorant, and childish platitudes.

Finally, by virtue of my ethnic origins, I can attest that I have known and been friends with countless people of the Muslim faith who are indeed lovely human beings. Ben Affleck lives in Southern California. I grew up in Lebanon and Arabic is my mother tongue so I do not need Ben Affleck to confirm this reality for me. That said this has absolutely nothing to do with people’s fundamental right to point to aspects of that faith that necessitate scrutiny. Sam Harris and countless other true liberals are at the forefront of that discussion. This hardly makes them hateful bigots. Rather, they are courageous defenders of Western liberal values. Those who disagree with them are free to rebut their positions in an open and free exchange. However, to repeatedly seek to stifle their voice by accusing them of the vilest descriptors is dishonest and shameful.


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Masterful recounting of this Summer's barbarism by David Shulman:

Gaza: The Murderous Melodrama by David Shulman | The New York Review of Books


Then on September 12 a group of forty-three officers and soldiers from Unit 8200, the cream of Israeli army intelligence, a unit only slightly less prestigious than the combat squadrons of the air force, published a letter to the prime minister and the chief of staff in which they state that they will no longer serve in their former capacity. They wrote:
The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence…. There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence. Information that is collected and stored harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed. Intelligence allows for the continued control over millions of people through thorough and intrusive supervision and invasion of most areas of life.​
As Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz on September 14, it’s as if Stasi operatives in the GDR had suddenly turned against their commanders. No one should underestimate the importance of the soldiers’ statement; the timing, so close to the dismal war of this summer, is also important. In 2004, the last time there was a wave of refusals to serve on the part of air force pilots and of soldiers in one of the elite combat units, Israel, under Ariel Sharon, responded by dismantling the Gaza settlements and retreating from Gaza. Sharon, through his close confidant Dov Weisglass, famously listed the pilots’ protest as a major factor in the decision to abandon the settlements.​
Meanwhile, on another level, grave questions remain about the way Israel conducted its latest Gaza war (and will probably conduct the next one). It’s too early to know what the various official bodies of inquiry will find; on the basis of past experience, I wouldn’t expect much from the army’s internal investigations. Both B’Tselem, the well-known human rights organization with impeccable credentials, and Breaking the Silence, one of the most effective of the peace groups, are carrying out their own research on what happened, including interviewing many soldiers who were in the war.

Early results are far from encouraging; to take but one example, credible eyewitness accounts emerging from the village of Khuza’a, near Khan Yunis, speak of widespread, lethal shooting by soldiers at civilians attempting to follow the army’s own orders to evacuate their homes on July 23. Khuza’a has been more or less reduced to rubble.​
And his conclusion:

The dimensions of destruction in Gaza are terrifying, and only a fool, or a blind nationalist, would blame them all on Hamas and its nefarious policies. The present disastrous situation in Gaza has a long prehistory and a wider political setting. This summer’s war might have been meaningful, or at least intelligible, if Israel had embarked on it with the aim of strengthening the Palestinian moderates in order to reach an agreement. That was not the case.

But it is not right to couch this conclusion only in conventional pragmatic terms. There is a complex but urgent moral dimension to what happened this summer. Large-scale civilian casualities, including hundreds of children classed as “collateral damage,” cannot be justified even under conditions of combat such as the army faced in Gaza. No more amenable to rational justification is the continued occupation of the West Bank. By now, after forty-seven years, we use the word “occupation” as if it were almost a routine, or normal, form of existence. It is not.​

Urge you to read the whole thing - some great ancient and recent history in there as well. Considering grabbing the book (Gaza: A History) that forms the center of this review...


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Another worthwhile passage:

Along with the letter of the members of Unit 8200, more detailed accounts of what this kind of intelligence work entails have been emerging in the press (one can also see the system in operation in two recent films, Omar and Bethlehem2). If you are Palestinian and happen to be gay, or need some special kind of medical care, or are in financial straits, or want a permit so that you can travel to visit a relative or spouse, or have had some run-in with the security forces, you’re fair game for blackmail or bribery or both.

If anyone has any doubt about the veracity of the soldiers’ reports, he or she has only to read the superb Palestine Speaks, edited by Mateo Hoke and Cate Malek, a collection of documentary interviews with ordinary Palestinians living on the West Bank or in Gaza. It’s all there: the regime of surveillance and blackmail, the constant threat of arbitrary arrest and likely torture, the continuous theft of land, and the more mundane, but no less tormenting, reality of the roadblocks, state-inflicted terror, random violence, lack of legal recourse, and disenfranchisement.

The voices of these ordinary individuals, so similar to those Palestinians I encounter regularly in the territories, speak here with unsettling eloquence. There are heartrending stories, such as the autobiographical sketch of a courageous fisherman from Gaza, Jamal Baker, whose life has been more or less destroyed by the Israeli blockade, his new boat (worth $10,000, an astronomical sum in Gaza) blasted out of the water by a caprice of soldiers in the Israeli navy, his son nearly killed in this attack. The basic idea governing the entire appalling system is to stamp out the Palestinian nationalist movement and to block all Palestinian aspirations to live a normal life in dignity—and at the same time, to steal huge chunks of land. Whatever Israel does in Gaza ultimately serves this goal.

The process of disenfranchisement and consequent eviction goes on. In early September the government leaked its plan to resettle some 12,500 Palestinian Bedouins from the Jahalin, Rashaida, and Ka‘abna tribes in a new city to be built for them in the Jordan Valley. Needless to say, the Bedouins are strongly opposed to this move, which will destroy their culture and their historic way of life. The plan is the final, logical move in a decades-long process of undermining the West Bank Bedouins, denying them access to wells and grazing grounds, starving them of infrastructure and services, including proper medical care, and ruthlessly depriving them of basic human rights—the goal being to cleanse areas marked for Israeli settlement of their presence.

I have seen the process with my own eyes in the small, ravishing encampment at Khirbet al-Duqaiqa on the edge of the desert in south Hebron. Like dozens of other such encampments, al-Duqaiqa is scheduled for destruction. This is the Israeli version of culturecide, sometimes expressly rationalized by old-fashioned colonial rhetoric about enlightening the benighted natives, as we have heard from the bureaucrats of the Civil Administration at the larger site of Susya, also slated for demolition, in the hilly heartland of south Hebron.

Gaza was the bone Sharon threw to the world in order to allow Israel to carry out its long-term annexationist program on the West Bank.​
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Staff member


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And the expected escalation continues:

Horror in Jerusalem: the conflict evolves

The sight of Jews in prayer shawls lying in pools of blood sinks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a new horror. The knife and gun attack yesterday which killed four worshippers and a policeman in a Jerusalem synagogue (plus the two terrorists) is unusual in three ways. First, Palestinian Jerusalemites have been largely quiescent for over a decade; now they are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Second, their crude weapons—stones, blades, car-ramming—are more reminiscent of the first Palestinian uprising in the 1980s than of more recent attacks with bombs and rockets. Third, the conflict is increasingly about holy places. Palestinians are furious over demands by some Jews to pray on the Haram al-Sharif, a Muslim site built atop the ruins of the ancient Jewish temple. Israelis are enraged by the murder of Jews in a place of prayer. An old, difficult conflict over land may be evolving into an intractable religious war.


More reading:

Israel demolishes home of terrorist responsible for October 22 Jerusalem light rail attack

3rd Possibility: Coming Civil War in West Bank/ Jerusalem? | Informed Comment

An Israeli-Arab Spring? 1.6 mn Palestinian-Israelis are Marginalized, Angry and Defiant | Informed Comment

Crisis in Jerusalem - The New Yorker

And some things happening in Jerusalem in the run up to the latest attack:

Contested Site in Jerusalem Reopens for Muslim Worship

DJ Vuvu Zela

TRIBE Member
An old, difficult conflict over land may be evolving into an intractable religious war.

it's just "evolving" into that now?


has that author ever read the history of he conflict? Jerusalem has been virtually central to it since day 1. Disputes over the temple mount are nothing new.
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Bernnie Federko

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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

‘They sold us out:’ Palestinians feel betrayed by Arab world over Trump’s ‘peace plan’

Palestinians are furious with U.S. President Donald Trump’s one-sided Middle East “peace plan,” which aims to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict almost completely on Israel’s terms. But they also fear that the support of a unified Arab world may be disappearing. Although Palestinian populations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in refugees camps marched Wednesday condemning the deal, there appears to be little they can do as Israel prepares to annex more land in the West Bank.

As Mark MacKinnon reports from the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, Palestinians feel Arab states such as Saudi Arabia have deserted them and are going along with the designs of the U.S. President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What disappointed them was watching support for the Palestinian cause – once something that united the entire Arab world, from Iraq to Morocco – crumble on Tuesday as worries about Iran mount. “They sold us out – the Saudis, before anybody,” said Wafa Sukkar, a 63-year-old resident of Shatila who is the matron of a sprawling family of eight children, 44 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. “I hope it comes back to bite them.”


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The Trump-Netanyahu Peace Deal By Gwynne Dyer

The peculiar thing about the ‘peace deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians that was announced in Washington on Tuesday was obvious at a single glance.

There was President Donald Trump and his good buddy Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, together at the podium, and an audience of US and Israeli officials who clapped at every opportunity. They were talking about a ‘two-state solution’, and one of those states would have to be Palestinian – but there wasn’t a single Palestinian in the room.

The after-life of the ‘two-state’ principle has already been much longer than its real life. It was born in the Oslo Accords of 1993, which were based on the belief that although Israel had conquered all of historic Palestine by 1967, it could not go on ruling over millions of Arabs forever.

Peace and prosperity could only come, therefore, if the Palestinians had their own state too. So the Oslo principle was that there should be two equal and democratic states living side by side, one Israeli and one Palestinian: the ‘two-state solution’. But that solution didn’t even survive the 20th century.

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who signed the Oslo deal, was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist in 1995. His successor, ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, had strangled the deal in its cradle before his first term as prime minister ended in 1999.

The Oslo Accords died because Palestinian nationalists didn’t want to accept a state that included only one-sixth of former Palestine, and Israeli nationalists didn’t see why the Palestinian Arabs should have even that much land. Indeed, since the whole area was controlled by the Israeli military, Jewish settlers were already building towns throughout the occupied zone.

Yet even two decades later almost nobody admits publicly that the two-state solution is long dead, because to say that commits you to a discussion of the remaining alternatives – and none of them are good. That’s why even this bizarre sham ‘deal’, cooked up by Trump and Netanyahu without any Palestinian participation, still talks about two states.

At every turn of the wheel, the size of the imaginary state on offer to the Palestinians dwindles. With Israel on the brink of formally annexing all the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, it’s down to about 10% of former Palestine, and it will never actually happen. Yet the fictional destination of a Palestinian state must still be maintained. Why?

When people saw the ‘concept’ of a Palestinian state unveiled by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, consisting of several dozen little enclaves linked by overpasses and tunnels, many were irresistibly reminded of the ‘Bantustans’ of South Africa.

The Bantustans were created by the apartheid regime to give the illusion of freedom and self-determination for South Africa’s oppressed black populations. They never fooled anybody, but they allowed the regime to claim that it did respect the democratic rights of black people. They just couldn’t vote in South Africa, which was a country for white people.
Kushner’s map is trying to do the same trick.

A real two-state solution is politically unsaleable in Israel, partly because of the Jewish majority’s security concerns but mainly because the Jewish settlers want too much of the territory such a Palestinian state would be built on.

But the Palestinians are not going to go away, and there are around five million of them. They have already lived under Israeli military rule for more than fifty years. Can you really defend leaving them under military occupation for another fifty?

If not, then the remaining alternatives are a two-state solution or a ‘one-state solution’ in which Israel annexes all the occupied territories. But if Israel annex them then those five million Palestinian Arabs will be able to vote in Israeli elections – and Israel ceases to be a ‘Jewish state’, although it remains a democratic one.

Or else you don’t let them vote, in which case Israel becomes an apartheid state. This is why the zombie two-state solution keeps rising from its grave. Israel doesn’t actually have to get the Palestinians to agree, but it must keep talking about some sort of Palestinian state or else resign itself to being simply an ethnic tyranny.

Is this a sustainable long-term policy? It may well be. Israel is the regional military superpower, unbeatable by any imaginable combination of Arab states, and in any case the rest of the Arab world has largely lost interest in the plight of the Palestinians.

That’s why there was no need to have any Palestinians at the great unveiling of the Trump-Netanyahu ‘peace deal’ this week. Palestinian consent is not necessary, and when they reject it they can be vilified for rejecting ‘peace’. Netanyahu understands this perfectly. Whether Trump understands it doesn’t even matter.
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Bernnie Federko

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party is projected to win the most seats in Israel's election, according to exit polls.
  • All three polls — updated moments ago to reflect the latest results — show his right-wing bloc one or two seats short of the 61 needed for a majority.
Why it matters: The exit polls are not official results, but they project a strong performance from Netanyahu in Israel's third elections in 10 months despite a looming corruption trial.
  • Both Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, his centrist rival, failed to form coalition governments following elections in April and September.
  • Netanyahu has vowed to annex parts of the West Bank within weeks if elected.
By the numbers: All three exit polls show Netanyahu's Likud party winning 36–37 seats, to 32–34 for Gantz's Blue and White.
  • All three show Netanyahu's right-wing bloc with 59 or 60 seats and Gantz's center-left bloc with 52-54.
  • The remaining seats go to Avigdor Lieberman's nonaligned party. Lieberman has resisted calls to line up alongside Netanyahu, but could possibly stand aside to allow a minority government.
Where things stand: There were no signs of voter fatigue in this rerun election. Turnout was 71%, an increase from the past two contests.
  • This is a remarkable turnaround for Israel's longest-serving prime minister, and it likely means the political obituaries that had been in progress will be shelved for now.
  • Despite three indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, millions of Israelis continue to put their faith in Netanyahu.
  • But if he doesn't manage to cobble together 61 seats the political deadlock could continue — and another election could be just months away.
What to watch: Netanyahu is now serving as caretaker prime minister, but he hopes to form a new right-wing government that will derail the legal proceedings against him.
  • At the very least, it would allow him to continue as prime minister during his trial, which begins March 17.
  • Gantz has ruled out a unity government, citing Netanyahu's trial.
The bottom line: No Israeli prime minister has governed while defending himself against criminal charges. But to paraphrase Netanyahu's campaign slogan, there’s no one else like him.

Bernnie Federko

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Netanyahu’s rivals close in on him, as Israel and Egypt meet to discuss truce with Hamas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s days in office may be numbered. Far-right leader Naftali Bennett, in a televised address, announced his party’s crucial support for a “unity government” to unseat the 71-year-old head of the Likud party.
Talk of a coalition among eight parties of varying ideologies comes as Israel and Egypt held high-level talks to discuss a truce between Israel and Hamas and the effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip following the 11-day resurgence of violence that left hundreds of people dead. At least 230 Palestinians died, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, while at least 12 people in Israel lost their lives.